I love the flavor of bold and spicy Caribbean favorites prepared in a traditional and authentic manner.
But let's face facts, I live in South Central PA and unless you're looking for Pennsylvania Dutch specialties, this is not exactly the epicenter of ethnically diverse food options. So I've learned to adapt and navigate my way through geographically available choices which lend themselves to attaining the essence inspired by a traditional dish.
Callaloo, is a popular dish served throughout the Caribbean who's origins can be traced to West Africa. Brought to the West Indies by slaves centuries ago, its preparation differs from island to island. The one constant, however, is that the main ingredient is always a leafy vegetable.
To complicate matters, the very name "Callaloo" is often implied as the leafy vegetable itself, as opposed to the dish, and that differs from island to island as well.
In Jamaica and Guyana, Callaloo refers to amaranth. In Trinidad and Tobago, callaloo is the taro leaf, or the dasheen bush. Outside of those islands, it is not unusual to see water spinach utilized as callaloo.
So again, I was faced with choices, and since I don't have any West Indies markets close at hand, I had to decide which options would take me closest to the essence of the traditional dish. I chose to emulate the Trinidad variety.
I did so because I wanted to implement the easily attainable Swiss Chard, which is similar in nature to the taro leaf. I opted for the green variety as opposed to the red for purely aesthetic reasons.
My goal was create a respectably authentic rendition at all costs, and the bold flavors of the Trinidadian variety provided me a nice palate to work with, as they choose to employ okra, scotch bonnets and coconut milk in their traditional version, and quite often, shellfish and salted meats.
Total time: Less than 1 hour